Asbestos and renovating

Was your property built before 31 December 2003?

The supply and installation of asbestos containing material (ACM) has been prohibited since 31 December 2003. If your property was built before this time it is important for home owners and renovators to be aware of how to safely manage asbestos in and around the home.

Breathing in asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The risk of contracting these diseases increases with the number of fibres inhaled. For more information on how asbestos can affect your health please refer to the NSW Health website - Asbestos and health risks.

Types of asbestos

Friable asbestos is any material that contains asbestos and is in the form of a powder or can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to powder by hand pressure when dry.

Non-friable (bonded) asbestos is material that contains asbestos (other than friable asbestos material).

In the past asbestos was used in around 3,000 products manufactured worldwide. The most commonly used asbestos product in Australia from the 1940's until the 1980's was 'fibro' a non-friable (bonded) asbestos product. Fibro was widely used as wall and ceiling sheeting in houses and other structures because of its strength and resistance to heat and salt air. It has even been used in brick structures under the eaves and as internal linings especially in bathrooms and laundries. In addition to fibro sheeting, non-friable (bonded) asbestos was used in roofing and as fencing panels (supersix), guttering, pipes, floor and ceiling tiles. Asbestos was also used as an insulation material, as a fire retardant, in gaskets, in brake linings and as a filtering material. 

Where asbestos is commonly found in your home

cross section of a home pointing out possible sources of asbestos

If in good condition, fibro presents minimal risk when left undisturbed. Broken, badly weathered or damaged non-friable (bonded) asbestos material may release fibres that present a risk to health and should be removed, or sealed so as to prevent release of asbestos fibre.

Home renovators need to be particularly aware of this material. When cut drilled or broken it can present the risks to health mentioned above, especially if working in a confined space. Others may be at risk when cleaning up, and if not cleaned up it may be a danger.

Material containing asbestos should never by cleaned using a high-pressure water cleaner.

Remember if your property was built before 31 December 2003 help protect yourself and your family by checking for ACM before you start work.

The only way to confirm whether a material contains asbestos is to have it analysed by one of the National Association of Testing Laboratories (NATA) laboratories accredited for this type of testing. 

Asbestos Removal and Disposal

In NSW the removal of more than 10m2 of non-friable (bonded) asbestos material must be carried out by a licensed asbestos removalist. Licencing for asbestos removalists is regulated and administered in Safework NSW and people using contractors should request to sight the current licence before employing a contractor.

Two types of licences designated A and B are issued. Class A licence holders can carry out work which involves both friable and non-friable (bonded) asbestos. Class B licence holders can work with non-friable asbestos only.

Removal of 10m2 or less of non-friable (bonded) asbestos may be undertaken without a licence, however given the risks involved, Council encourages residents to consider engaging a licenced asbestos removal contractor.

Products containing asbestos can only be disposed of at a waste facility licenced to accept these materials. Ballina Shire's Waste Management Facility at Southern Cross Drive is not currently able to receive this type of waste. The nearest authorized facilities are at Stotts Creek (Tweed Heads) and Casino. Please contact the facility at least 24 hours before your arrival. Specific requirements also apply to its transportation.

Importantly, if you suspect you have asbestos in your home ... 
Don't cut it! Don't drill it! Don't drop it! Don't sand it! Don't saw it! Don't scrape it! Don't scrub it! Don't dismantle it! Don't tip it! Don't waterblast it! Don't demolish it!
and whatever you do... Don't dump it!

During clean-up

As a precautionary measure, council advises those in neighbouring properties during the asbestos clean up/removal to:

  • avoid unnecessary outdoor activity and do not put any laundry outside
  • close all external doors and windows and stay indoors
  • avoid using air conditioners that introduce air from outside into the home

After clean-up

  • dispose of any laundry that may have been contaminated with asbestos during the incident or emergency as asbestos waste
  • use a low pressure hose on a spray configuration to remove visible dust from pathways
  • wipe dusty surfaces with a damp cloth and bag and dispose of the cloth as asbestos waste
  • please follow any other measures recommended by an occupational hygienist following assessment of the situation.

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Postal Address

The General Manager
Ballina Shire Council
PO Box 450
Ballina NSW 2478

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40 Cherry Street
Ballina NSW 2478

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